Rhine Crossing: The German Defenders

The 89th Division move to the Rhine had been so rapid that no time remained before the attack to assess with accuracy the strength of German forces waiting for them east of the Rhine. German units were observed busily preparing defenses, gun positions, on the steep hillsides and in riverside towns, among them Wellmich, St. Goarshausen, Kaub and torch.

What was discovered after the crossing was a sizeable but mixed, hastily assembled force. For the most part they were Luftwaffe antiaircraft battalions (withdrawn from defending cities) and hastened to the Rhine to fight as infantry. These were strengthened by many Wehrmacht units (of all kinds and mostly under strength but no infantry). These had escaped from the Rhineland battle (notably some good artillery battalions) and would fight again. Also identified were sizeable Volkssturm forces several training battalions, reports of the remnants of SS units, two German penal battalions, etc. A tank unit was observed, taken under fire near Wesel but not engaged.

The Germans were armed with small arms, machine guns, 20mm and 88 mm fire Antiaircraft guns and field artillery. Though outnumbered, the defenders were expected to fight strongly; for the Rhine line was Germany's final natural defense position in the West. If the Western Allies broke the defense crust of the Rhine, the gates of Germany were open.

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